The five inventive tales in this unusual collection speak to each other across time and space, but it takes a while for the reader to realize the subtle connections here. The very point of Van Winckel's second volume of stories (Limited Lifetime Warranty, 1994) is that there's no obvious prime mover to events--even if everything that happens is a consequence of a single moment. Everything begins, sort of, with ""Hearsay,"" in which a traveling ventriloquist recalls a brief affair with a native gypsy girl in Idaho whose one-night with the Genie (non-gypsy) has tragic results for her and the brother who avenges her honor. In ""Ever After,"" a divorcÃ¢e struck by lightning loses her hands, and is shrewdly counseled about her future by two old gypsy women in her convalescent home--they happen to be aunts of the girl from ""Hearsay."" Meanwhile, in ""Whatever Shines,"" the sister-in-law of the tragic gypsy from ""Hearsay"" turns up in Milwaukee, where she runs away from an arranged marriage, goes to school, and lives with a group of girls who harbor draft-dodgers on their way to Canada. The gypsy boy who avenged his sister escapes to Mexico (in ""Cine HorriblÃ¢""), where he makes his living showing movies throughout the countryside until one of them, Dracula, is very poorly received by the horrified locals. He also suffers from visions of his wronged sister, who dies while giving birth the son of the ventriloquist. The longest and wildest story, ""Taking Leave,"" includes the voice of that very child years later, now grown and living in Milwaukee, who has no knowledge of his real parents. He eventually finds his calling in scavenging, using the materials he discovers to create art. The marime (the defiled) who people these intriguing stories share voices and visions; however confusing it at first seems, there's great pleasure in discovering the connections here. Van Winckel demands and deserves a careful reading.